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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 10:54 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 10:54 | SYDNEY

What to do, what to do?

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4 January 2010 16:23

I just found my way back to a blog I'd bookmarked ages ago and then promptly ignored, 'Mapping Strategy'. I shall ignore it no longer.

On one level, you could say this blog is focused on business and management issues, but really it's a site about decision-making, crisis management, forecasting and how to cope with the limits of our knowledge of the future.

These are all themes with universal application. For example, all large organisations, particularly those in a crisis, are forced to make decisions in the midst of a 'fog', in which conditions are so unusual that the assumptions used in forecasts simply do not hold. What to do?:

Instead of turning up the headlights of forecasting (counter-intuitively deadly in fog), the most important adaptation executives and strategic planners can make to such conditions is to increase collective responsiveness.

How does one do that under conditions analogous to heavy fog when landing the plane or pulling over aren't viable options? And what does that metaphor mean in practice? Several things.

First, decide what kinds of things make sense to look out for in the fog. (E.g., iceberg? mountain? brake lights? deer? It depends on the vehicle, the terrain and the map.)

Second, identify the specific tenets of management's conventional wisdom (often different from official assumptions) and ventilate them with truly distinct, 'orthogonal' views of potential futures.

Third, examine specific hypothetical examples as archetypes, not fixating on truly catastrophic 'act of God' events at the expense of ones that can be influenced. A rough analogy here would be to pop-up shooting ranges for law enforcement officers with an emphasis on rapid recognition and the ability to appropriately slot such 'surprises' into specific response categories.

Fourth, rehearse key events, scenarios and potential responses together. A management team can no more outsource scenario thinking than my daughters can outsource Drivers' Ed or a World Cup soccer team can train alone and expect to win.

Easy? No. Formulaic? Not at all. In fact, the process is highly creative. Effective? In the current environment, conventional 'steady-state' planning alternatives are actively misleading (i.e., more of the same will only get you in trouble faster). Turn up the headlights and you'll be blinded. Slow to a crawl and you'll be passed or hit.

Photo by Flickr user Garrettc, used under a Creative Commons license.

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